I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas…
White Christmas is one of those “feel good” shows. There’s a guaranteed happy ending, great songs, fantastic dance, and everyone leaves the theatre humming and smiling. Currently on stage at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, it makes a great gift at Christmas time!
The stage show actually has a better plot than the old 1954 movie, where the storyline was a bit contrived. But the premise is the same: It’s Christmas 1944 and Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are army buddies, putting on a little song and dance show for the troops. Fast forward 10 years – Wallace and Davis are a famous duo on the Ed Sullivan show. They meet up with a sister act, Betty and Judy Haynes. There’s the requisite romance, followed by conflicts, then making up. And in the meantime, they save their old army General from bankruptcy when a lack of snow threatens his Vermont ski lodge. Everyone lives happily ever after when snow falls on Christmas Eve.
The romantic plot is a charming storybook gift, and the cast of this production has wrapped it up perfectly. Jeff Irving and Kyle Blair play Bob and Phil, with all the appeal of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Jayme Armstrong and Rachel Crowther are perfect as Betty and Judy. Blair and Crowther amaze the audience with their dance numbers in “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing”. Irving brings a tear to the eye as he sings the title number to the soldiers so far from home. Armstrong draws in the audience’s sympathy with her sultry solo “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me”.
Victor A. Young aptly captures General Waverly – he is both formidable and lovable. And his real-life wife, Jayne Lewis, is perfect as his nemesis Martha Watson, the hotel desk clerk, switch board operator and busy-body. Lewis nails the former Broadway star’s song “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy”. Martha has the best line in the show; the audience howls when she explains the relationship between herself and the General. “We fight all the time, we don’t have sex: People think we’re married”.
A real audience favourite is little Anna Bartlam as Susan Waverly. At her tender age she is already a Drayton veteran, and we will certainly be seeing more of this young charmer. Matt Cassidy is excellent as Sheldrake who books acts on the Ed Sullivan show. Thomas Alderson plays Mike, the constantly frustrated stage manager, who gets laughs with his attempts to get cast and crew to cooperate. And here’s a little shout-out to Steve Coda, complete with cigarette, who is hilarious as Jimmy, the emcee in the sleazy bar.
The ensemble dance numbers are truly fantastic. In “Blue Skies”, we are treated to some Fosse-like moves and later in “I Love a Piano”, Blair and Crowther start out with some amazing moves, joined by the 10 ensemble members for the fastest, most astonishing tapping ever on stage. The audience erupts in spontaneous applause throughout the number.
This show moves quickly. Scenes and sets change rapidly and the action is fast. Dance numbers are lively and the comedy bounces, thanks to director/choreographer Michael Lichtefeld. The energy this cast exudes makes this production a wonderful, feel good experience. The six piece orchestra under the direction of Elizabeth Baird makes the favourite songs sound wonderful. No Christmas gift could be better. Call for tickets now – it’s nearly sold out, including the extended week that was recently added.
White Christmas continues with eight shows a week until December 29 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Call the Box Office Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check http://www.draytonentertainment.com/ for availability.
Music & lyrics by Irving Berlin
Book by David Ives & Paul Blake
Directed & Choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld
Musical direction by Elizabeth Baird
Performed by Kyle Blair, Jeff Irving, Jayme Armstrong, Rachel Crowther, Victor A. Young, Jayne Lewis, Anna Bartlam, Thomas Alderson, Matt Cassidy and ensemble.
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, Drayton Entertainment production
November 22 to December 29, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Disclaimer: the reviewer’s son is part of this cast.